The BIG step from manager to leader. What does it take?


The best boss I ever had. That’s a phrase many of us never said, but wish we had and wonder why we hadn’t yet. A phrase all managers dream their employees will one day think and say about them. But what do great managers actually do? What sets the great boss apart from an average manager? A lot of literature has been written on the difference between manager and leader and what it is that sets them apart in the end.

For starters, being a good manager is about leading by example. This is why, it might be the toughest job out there. But just because they call someone a manager doesn’t mean they get to be a leader too.

However, some people are both (or at least they try to be). They have management jobs, but upon realizing that you need people not only to do the work you hand them, but also to follow you down difficult paths, they act as leaders too.

They say bad managers tell employees what to do, good managers explain why they need to do it, but leaders involve people in decision making and improvement.

Are you a great leader or just a mere manager? Here’s how to tell the difference.

1. Managers have subordinates, leaders have followers

This is but the most important aspect in our opinion. By definition, managers have subordinates, as management consists of coordinating a team of people for the accomplishment of a goal. As opposed to leadership, which refers to being able to influence, motivate and empower other people to attain success. Yet, it’s influence and inspiration that separate leaders from managers, not power and control. Leaders do not have subordinates — at least not when they are leading. But since many are (or want to be) both managers and leaders, there’s that moment when you need to lose the authoritarian control, as to lead means to have followers, and following can only be a voluntary act.

2. Managers are counting value, leaders are creating it

When managing people we often count value, not add it. It sometimes happens that managers even reduce value when they don’t encourage its growth properly.

On the other hand, leaders are always focused on creating value on all levels. They help people discover what they’re best at, they help them improve and surpass their limits, they make them into a team and at the same time single out individual players. And all these are done along leading by example and leading by giving the people around the power.These are the two hallmarks of strong leadership.

3. Managers look for short term, leaders aim for more

Spending most of your energy on daily tasks, getting caught in the web of urgent, rather than important goals, makes for a mere manager.

A truly great leader cares less about reports that need to be delivered by the EOB and more about matters of long-term importance, such as the overall success of the team and the delivery of a revolutionary product. Short term is important, of course — someone has to take care of the little things. But leaders are often after the big fish, so they aim for more than just short-term.

4. Managers see people as organizational charts, leaders see them as people

People who work or have worked in a multinational company have seen it many times — managers referring to people as numbers and figures. More like the military, than a 21st century professional organization.

This often happens when teams are made up of a lot of different people, the hierarchy is twisted and there is always a boss of a boss of a boss you need an approval to do something from. So people are lost between so many other people and end up being called by their job titles rather than their names.

A real leader, however, will not fall into this trap. He or she will think of people individually, will explore their strengths and work with each and every one of them separately towards the same goals and interests. It takes up time and energy, but isn’t that how great things are accomplish?

5. A manager may feel threatened when team members are high achievers. Leaders feel proud.

Looking from a distance at the bigger picture, a manager doesn’t always have the whole thing figured out. He or she might not be yet occupying their dream position within the company and sometimes there is the risk of losing their dreams among bureaucratic chores. And more often than we’d like to admit, all these lead to the fear and frustration that a more clever, more ambitious fellow colleague will soon get ahead of them.

A true leader, on the other hand, takes pride in the accomplishments of his team members and wishes to create new leaders that will follow into his footsteps or even better, outgrow him, without the fear or being… outshone.

6. Managers may blame the team for failures, leaders understand they are responsible.

For a manager, fear does even more if you let it. From the position of a manager, there is this constant pressure of losing power. When the team records a failure, a manager may be concerned about losing face within the organization, about being disregarded for the team’s mistakes.

However, success and failure should belong to everyone and especially to the boss. So a true leader blames himself first for any issue that might occur, shoulders the blame and encourages and supports his team to do better. Together!

7. A manager wants to be liked, a great leader wants to earn respect.

Well… eventually, we have to call things as they are — managers or leaders, it’s hard to like them. The difference between them though is that managers are sometimes really keen on getting people to like them and express their discontent when they don’t. In contrast, leaders are aware of the fact that a certain positivity and cordiality is mandatory for things to run smoothly, but there is no need for strong friendships to arise. Great leaders have to sacrifice at times the short-term likability for long-term respect.

Your vision should become everyone’s dream

In India, Mahatma Gandhi inspired millions of people to fight for their rights, and he did it while walking shoulder to shoulder with them so that India could win its independence. His vision became everyone’s dream and was the key to the country’s unstoppable and successful push for independence. Just think of what would mean for the world to have leaders like him — who can think beyond problems, who have a vision and inspire people to convert challenges into opportunities.

It’s true: leadership comes down to getting people to understand and believe in your vision and, of course, work with you towards achieving those goals by making them their own as well. On the other hand, managing is more about dealing with day to day activities, administering them and making sure every little detail goes according to the schedule. Both are important for the well being of a company and in both cases people who do it in a certain way will make a difference… or not.

Here at TRISOFT, we strongly believe that good business owners need to play both the efficient manager and the intuitive leader role in order to get their team on board to follow them along on their way to accomplish their vision of success. What counts the most, though, is to honestly and wholeheartedly create that vision of success that can and will be shared by all!